Appleby Closing in on Three-Peat

By Associated PressJanuary 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- A two-shot lead at the Mercedes Championships means nothing to Stuart Appleby. Neither do his victories at Kapalua the last two years.
 
Even after birdies on three of his last six holes for a 3-under 70, matching the best score on another punishing, wind-swept day on west Maui, all Appleby could talk about Saturday were the shots he left out on the Plantation course and how he would have to bring his game up a notch.
 
Stuart Appleby
Stuart Appleby had four birdies and only one bogey in the third round.
'I'll have to knuckle down,' Appleby said. 'There's some good players behind me, and I'll have to play good golf.'
 
No one was conceding the season-opening tournament to Appleby, although his name atop the leaderboard is daunting. The Aussie is quickly becoming the King of Kapalua, and he has a chance Sunday to become the first player in nearly 50 years to capture the winners-only event three straight times.
 
'Every part of his game is very sound, very sharp,' U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell said after a 71 left him two shots behind and in the final group again with Appleby. 'He's going to be tough to beat tomorrow. But I believe I've got the tools to beat him.'
 
Campbell saw Saturday what he is up against.
 
If the pictures of past champions in the locker room were not enough -- two side-by-side of Appleby in the winner's cream blazer with a lei around his neck -- his golf in such demanding conditions should be a reminder.
 
On a course where the average score is 74.8 over three days, Appleby has dropped only two shots over his last 34 holes and looked very much in control by posting a 6-under 213 through three rounds.
 
'Winning two years in a row, pretty much being in control of this tournament most of the way, he's the guy to beat,' said Jim Furyk, a past winner at Kapalua who shot 72 and was three shots behind.
 
Only a half-dozen players were under par, and only one Kapalua rookie was in that mix. Lucas Glover needed some magic getting there, with a hole-in-one on the 203-yard eighth hole -- for a 70 to finish at 217.
 
Vijay Singh (74) and Sergio Garcia (73) each birdied the last hole to get to 218.
 
'If you just miss it, you're going to hit it way worse than you think,' Singh said. 'It was a grind. Putts like 3 or 4 feet it's like, 'Please, hit a good, solid stroke.''
 
Scoring has always been low at Kapalua since the tournament moved here in 1999, with the highest winning score coming in 2000 when Tiger Woods beat Ernie Els in a playoff after they finished at 16 under.
 
This looks more like a U.S. Open -- on the scoreboard and inside the ropes.
 
Not even the crashing surf below can put these guys at ease, as they battle wind that makes it difficult to stand still and greens that are firm and fast, making it tough to get the ball close to the hole.
 
The average score was 75.04, the second-toughest behind Friday's average of 75.5.
 
'I don't think anybody was expecting this kind of a battle the first week of the year,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'I certainly wasn't. I'm exhausted.'
 
Calcavecchia made a 15-foot putt on the 18th for only the second eagle of the tournament, giving him a 73 to finish seven shots out of the lead.
 
The other eagle was even better.
 
Glover, 4 over after his first four holes of the year and struggling at the start of every round, hit a 5-iron from 203 yards that bounced twice and probably would have run through the green if not for hitting the pin and dropping straight down into the cup.
 
It was the first ace in the eight-year history at Kapalua, and he won a Mercedes-Benz worth $83,375.
 
'I don't know what happened,' Glover said. 'I was just trying to get it up on that top level. That's a tough hole with that wind. It lined up pretty good, then it was just a matter of distance, whether a wind hit it right or not.'
 
It put the 26-year-old into contention, just four shots behind on a course where anything can happen. Even so, Glover and everyone else in range of Appleby will need some help.
 
Appleby made seven straight pars to hold his position, then gave himself some separation on two holes. Dead into the wind on No. 13, he managed to keep his 9-iron below the cup and holed a 12-footer for birdie, then hit another great pitch on the par-5 15th to 6 feet for birdie.
 
His two-putt from off the green at No. 18 gave him his third straight round under par.
 
The bigger story was the guys who struggle to break 80. Jason Gore, the feel-good story of 2005 with his collapse at the U.S. Open and quick turnaround to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour, doesn't feel so great this week. He shot 81, leaving him at 22 over and still searching for his first round in the 70s.
 
Gore is among seven players who are double digits over par.
 
But it also shows who's on top of their games, with three major champions among those under par, and the two-time defending champion at the top.
 
The only other player to win the Tournament of Champions three straight times was Gene Littler in 1955-57 when it was played at Desert Inn at Las Vegas. The last player to win the same tournament three straight years was Tiger Woods at the Bay Hill Invitational (2000-04). Others who have done that include Tom Watson and Johnny Miller.
 
'That's a great list to be on,' Appleby said. 'I hope I'm not thinking about that tomorrow, just playing my game, and knowing my best is enough to be a three-peater.'
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

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    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

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    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry